Workers’ compensation Coverage for On-the-Job Vehicle Accidents
According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), an insurance rating and data collection bureau specializing in workers’ compensation, the number of motor vehicle accidents as a share of workers’ compensation claims have risen in the past few years even as workplace safety has increased.
If you drive your company’s vehicle for work-related reasons on a daily basis it is worth your while to know your legal options in the event of vehicle accidents while on the job. Although workers’ compensation rules differ from state to state, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits so long as you were injured while carrying out your professional duties.
Respondeat superior: Let the master answer!
The legal doctrine holds employers liable for their employees’ actions while acting within the scope of their employment. The employee is responsible for the costs of doing business, and that includes employee misconduct or carelessness. To reiterate, the doctrine applies only if the employee was performing his company’s business or otherwise acting on behalf of the employer when the incident occurred. If you collect workers’ compensation benefits, you cannot sue your employer.
Ex: A pizza delivery service promises ‘delivery within 30 minutes or free’. The delivery employee suffers an accident on his way to fulfilling the order within the promised deadline. The pizza delivery company is legally responsible for covering medical expenses and lost wages as a result of the employee’s injury.
Driving a colleague for work-related purposes or business-related travel compensated by the employer also fall within the scope of your employment. If you sustain injuries on your drive back to work after a lunch break or the crash occurs on your way to transporting a co-worker to your work facility at the end of the workday, then you would not be in the course or scope of your employment.
How is a workers’ compensation claim different from a negligence claim?
The workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system. If you’re injured while driving at work, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits without having to prove that another party was at fault. Even if your injury has been caused mainly by your own negligence, you can still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
You don’t have to prove the negligence of another party, which is in contrast to the civil justice system, where you must prove that the other party was at fault. However, the amount in damages is a lot less than the damages that can be claimed in a civil lawsuit. Workers’ compensation cases are decided by administrate law judges rather than juries.
You can also choose to file a claim against the other party who was responsible for the accident. So, you would be pursuing a personal injury case against the negligent driver and seek workers’ compensation benefits from your employer.
Workers’ compensation benefits do not cover pain and suffering
The damages in a civil lawsuit include medical bills, lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses, and damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress. Your employer is required to pay for your medical treatment upfront as opposed to reimbursing you for your outgoing medical expenses. In fact, you cannot be billed for any medical expense arising from a work injury.
Also, workers’ compensation benefits do not compensate you for any pain, suffering, and emotional distress the injury causes. An exception is when the accident causes an emotional disorder that severely interrupts your life.
It’s not always straightforward
Most of the time, employees have no trouble getting the compensation benefits entitled to them by law. You only need to fill up the necessary paperwork provided by your employer, which is then sent to the insurer for processing. In the event that the claim is denied or if the employer believes that you were deviating from your professional duties and hence cannot claim workers’ compensation benefits, immediate legal representation becomes paramount.
Talk to the work injury lawyers at Guy Levy to understand your rights and secure the compensation you deserve.